Friday, November 25, 2016

'Batman: Return Of The Caped Crusaders' was an odd experience

I've always loved watching the old Batman show. The 1966 film is one of my favorite movies of the entire decade, Adam West and Burt Ward will always be the ultimate Batman and Robin in my eyes, and the fun and kooky villains are always a joy to watch in action. This was my favorite incarnation of Batman, so when I saw that this new animated movie was coming out featuring the voices of West and Ward, I was pretty excited to see how it might turn out. Ultimately, I was pretty disappointed.

The animation style was reminiscent of the '90s animated series but if you were to blend it with the mood and atmosphere of the '60s live-action show/movie. Though it does look pretty cheap at times, that kind of works to its advantage considering the fact it's taking a majority of its plotting and design from the Adam West Batman. It even features Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, which is definitely a fun and effectively nostalgic choice. West is timeless and Ward still barely seems aged, while 83-year old Julie Newmar as Catwoman is definitely the worst part of this nostalgic cast, as she is animated to look very young and sounds very, very old. I get what they were trying to do, but honestly having West and Ward would have been enough, especially since Romero, Meredith, and Gorshin were obviously unable to return for their villainous roles.

The comedic aspect is also an attempted throwback, blending in sincerity with absurdity in the same kind of way as classic Batman. But what doesn't work so well here is the fact that they never have enough self-awareness to realize when they've gone too far. Small doses of absurdity and silly humor is what made each and every corny moment in the original work so well. Having Batman whip out a can of shark-repellent spray in the '66 movie was hilarious because it wasn't surrounded by 50 other uses of the same joke. This movie takes all the restraint from the '60s show and throws it out the window. Sometimes the jokes work, but in the same way as many lazy SNL sketches, it never knows when enough is enough; let a joke be a joke and give it time to work, but then let it end.

This movie was pretty fun to watch at first, but after 20 minutes it's pretty much run out of any fun material and you're left with an hour of a half-assed impersonation of a great show. It never feels like it could have been done in the 1960s, as plenty of the humor is contemporary in nature, which throws the nostalgic feel off center. Including The Joker, Riddler, and Penguin is almost incidental here, as they're mostly given very little to do (especially The Penguin and The Riddler), never once handling all these unique villainous personalities and their chemistry together even a small fraction as well as the 1966 movie featuring the original cast did. Catwoman is given plenty to work with, but again, Newmar is just way too past her prime to make it all work. It never captures the true feel of Batman, but it was trying. Just imagine having a few kids watch the old Batman and then write a script based on their fan fiction.

If you're unfamiliar with '60s Batman, don't let this be your introduction. If you are familiar, you'll probably be left thinking it was just alright. But there is one thing it's sure to do -- by the time this is over, you'll want to put on the real thing.

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